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Mr. SPRATT. Mr. Chairman, this bill will authorize the Rural Utilities Service to make loans to rural electric co-ops so that the co-ops, in turn, can make loans to families and small businesses for energy conservation and efficiency measures that meet Federal standards.
This process will begin with an energy audit aimed at identifying energy-saving measures. Based on this audit, the co-ops will propose improvements like insulation or high-efficiency heat pumps. Consumers will pay the co-ops for the installation through a charge on their utility bills spread over a period of 5 to 10 years. The energy savings will cover much, if not all, of the loan repayment. And after the loan is repaid, the participating consumer will continue to save, as will the economy, because of the more efficient use of energy.
There are more than 200,000 rural electric cooperative customers in my district, many of them near or below the poverty level. Many of these hardworking people would gladly invest in their homes to make them more efficient, but they cannot borrow or afford the funds necessary to install a new heat pump or place insulation in their walls and ceilings.
This is where the ingenuity of the co-ops comes in. Through a program that could be implemented nationwide, they would provide a simple but effective solution to help their customers at relatively low cost. At the same time they would create new jobs by making low-cost loans available to install high-impact energy efficiency improvements. The loans will be repaid over time on the consumer's utility bill, and ideally there will be a net reduction of utility payments even when accounting for the loan repayments. This is a win-win solution to a major problem.
I urge support for this bill. It is well crafted and it will not have an impact on the bottom line of the budget because we are talking about loans made by the Federal Government to the electric co-ops, which will be, I am sure, duly repaid.
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